Paola Ferrario



Paola Ferrario’s attention often focused on the unlovely, wrecked or altered surfaces, is the stuff poems are made of. That which others might deliberately block out or overlook she documents, and in doing so makes art of the discarded or spent. In preparation for an exhibit curated by Jean Dykstra at Happy Lucky gallery in Brooklyn Ferrario paired some of her photographs in a series of diptychs and a companion series of “hands.” Together they form a frank narrative, some of which she considers “a cataloguing of the artifacts of the material world in decline.”

This artist has an entrepreneurial streak that includes a bit of cooking, publishing, producing, and politics. In addition to a book published in conjunction with an exhibit, 19 Pictures 22 Recipes, “a meditation on food, photographs, and human capability,” she founded FIP, a collaborative publishing project of work by international artists. One offshoot of this is “Postcards for Paul Ryan” in which the artist/publisher offers free cards to anyone who followed through with donations to the ACLU.

Elaine Sexton: Paola, we’ve selected some diptychs and a few of your series of “hands” photographs, some of are part of a very recent exhibit to show here. These all seem to be part of an ongoing idea of the impact of that which is manual, what is made, altered or touched. Would you say a few words what you are your thinking as this body of work evolves?



Paola Ferrario: I see my diptychs or small compilations of images quite differently from the hands. The hands are really about me, my existence, and my taste. The other work is about the contemporary western world (which I inhabit daily), class, and the aesthetics of capitalism when it hits those whom it doesn’t favor. The diptychs and compilations are really the result of my obsession with how materials are understood and interpreted and how architecture and bodies can really highlight that.



The hands prevent me from becoming a hoarder, so many objects and things that I find on the street that, if I did not photograph, I would bring home....and sometimes I do bring them home. The hands are also a record of daily life: the good and bad food I eat and cook, the injuries to fingers, the hikes, the hunting, the moments of delight from what I am experiencing.

With the diptychs, I put two images together in the hope that they can frame some sort of question, then the viewer can start their own interior dialogue. Also, often when I see the things I photograph I do feel a real sense of surprise but not necessarily a sense of “approval” of the things themselves. I do love resourcefulness and invention but some of the inventions I photograph are crazy failures of matter.



Paola Ferrario is an internationally recognized artist and Guggenheim fellow. Her photographs are in the collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, New York, The National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institute, Yale Art Gallery, and numerous other museums, galleries, and libraries. Her work has appeared in solo exhibitions and group shows, most recently at Happy Lucky Gallery in Crown Heights, NY.